A Quick Overview of Criminal Sentencing in California
If someone is convicted of a criminal offense in California, state law says what the maximum possible punishment could be. Judges decide what an individual's minimum sentence is appropriate based on the facts and circumstances of a case and the criminal history of the individual convicted.
After a guilty plea or conviction by the court, the individual will be interviewed and evaluated to help the judge decide what minimum sentence is appropriate.
The prosecutor and defense can present evidence to help the judge decide what sentence to give the defendant at a sentencing hearing. Evidence that can make the punishment harsher is called an aggravating factor. Evidence that can make the penalty lighter is called a mitigating factor.
For example, Penal Code PC 667.71 PC habitual sexual offender law applies to sexual-related severe offenses such as Penal Code 261 PC rape, Penal Code 288 PC lewd acts with a minor, Penal Code 286 PC sodomy, and Penal Code 287 PC oral copulation with a minor.
If the criminal case is related to a sexual offense, then evidence of a sex or pornography addiction might be considered a mitigating factor by a judge.
This mitigating factor typically relates to the defendant's mental health. However, just claiming that a defendant has sex or pornography addiction is likely not enough to make a difference at their sentencing.
Thus, any discussion about addiction needs to be accompanied by an evaluation by a mental health professional. In this article by our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys, we will examine this topic further below.
What is “Mitigation?”
If you want the judge to impose a less severe sentence, you can try to present the court with a mitigating factor. A mitigating factor seeks to explain the defendant's behavior to lessen the seriousness of the crime.
Judges look at each case differently, considering all the facts before deciding on a sentence. If two people commit the same crime, but one did it in a different way or under other circumstances, then the judge will look at that too.
A judge can give different sentences to people guilty of a crime, depending on how responsible they are for the crime and how much criminal experience they have.
A first-time offender is often treated differently than someone with several previous convictions and run-ins with the law.
If this is not your first time being charged with a crime, it is essential to tell the judge any mitigating factors that might make you deserve less severe punishment. In California, mitigation factors are broken into two groups: factors relating to the crime and the defendant. They are described below.
What Are Some Mitigating Factors Related to the Crime?
Mitigation factors relating to the crime are found within the California Rules of Court at Rule 4.423(a) and include:
- Information regarding whether the defendant was a minor actor or passive participant in the offense;
- Information whether the victim in the case was an aggressor, provoker, initiated the incident, or was a willing participant;
- Information that the crime happened due to something unlikely to repeat;
- Information that the defendant was coerced, induced, or took action under duress;
- Information that the defendant was careful and exercised caution;
- Information regarding a mistaken belief of the defendant regarding a legal claim;
- Information that the defendant took action out of necessity; and
- Information that the defendant previously abused the defendant.
What Are Some Mitigating Factors Related to the Defendant?
Mitigation factors relating to the defendant are found within the California Rules of Court at 4.423(b) and include:
- Information that the defendant has never been in trouble before or has a minor criminal record;
- Information that the defendant suffered from a mental or physical condition that contributed to the crime;
- Information that the defendant cooperated and took responsibility right away;
- The defendant is eligible for probation;
- The defendant has paid any owed restitution to the victim;
- Information showing the defendant's successful prior history on probation or parole.
Other mitigation factors can be found under Rule 4.423(c). The burden to show that a mitigation factor should be considered is on the defendant.
How Can Addiction Be a Factor in Sentencing?
If a criminal offense occurred due to an addiction, then evidence of that addiction may be considered a mitigating factor by the court. Addictions are regarded as mental health issues.
As noted, simply stating that addiction was/is present and that a crime occurred due to the addiction is likely not enough to sway a judge's sentencing decision, so any addiction claims should be complemented by an evaluation and plan by a medical professional.
If someone shows that they are trying to improve themselves, a judge may consider this when sentencing them. This includes taking part in counseling, taking any prescribed medications, and following all of the court's requirements.
If the defendant is attending rehab, AA, NA, or taking other measures to control their addictions, make sure the judge knows. However, if someone repeatedly fails to control their addiction, this can cut in the opposite direction, and the court may see this as an aggravating factor.
In other words, a court can also view actions from addiction as an aggravating factor at sentencing if the defendant does nothing to deal with their addiction. Again, it can't be overstated that if the defendant shows a proactive approach toward their rehabilitation, a judge may properly consider this a mitigating factor.
If you have been accused under Penal Code 667.71 of being a habitual sex offender with an addiction, you can challenge the allegations. Through negotiations with the district attorney, we may be able to convince them to reduce or even dismiss a charge.
Some common legal defenses include showing a lack of probable cause, confession was coerced, or you were wrongfully arrested and falsely accused. Under the law, a police officer has to have probable cause to detain or arrest someone. There has to be a reasonable belief that someone committed a crime based on the circumstances.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-ranked criminal defense law firm in Los Angeles County. We provide legal representation throughout Southern California. You can reach us for an initial case evaluation by calling (877) 781-1570 or filling out the contact form.